How to Say Goodbye When a Workmate Leaves

Transitioning relationships from work into other parts of our lives requires a little work – but can happen.  It won’t happen automatically. Saying Goodbye to Colleagues: The Great Cube Cleanout continues to touch a chord with people as evidenced by comments and email messages.  That post was written from the perspective of the one leaving. Here are some thoughts on what to do when you stay and someone else leaves.

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Table of Contents

Don’t Lie

Some people are not all that pleasant to work with.  If the person leaving is someone you don’t care for, the saying, If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all is good to remember.  It’s sometimes far easier to say all kinds of falsehoods.  If you have to say something, instead of making something up, why not try this: I sincerely wish you well.

As the Rabbi said in Fiddler on the Roof when asked to provide a blessing for the Czar, May God bless and keep the Czar far away from here!  It’s okay to be happy that someone is going out of your life.

Remember Successes

This is a wonderful opportunity to recall genuine project and task successes that were accomplished through the efforts of the person who is leaving.

What do you Admire?

Take the time to come up with one or two traits or skills that you truly respect about the person.  It’s good to tell them in person, and to give some examples of how you’ve seen them in action.  If it feels uncomfortable to speak this out loud (guys – this is directed to you), it’s even more effective to send in a private email direct to the person.

Don’t be surprised if such an email is treasured for years to come.  Most people very rarely get true and positive feedback out of the blue.

Offer to be a Reference

If you respect the person and believe that you can give a glowing recommendation, offer to do so.  Better yet, write a paragraph or two and send it to them by email or post it.

Feel free to make a Clean Break

Feel comfortable making a clean break – if that’s what you want.  If you don’t plan on remaining in touch, don’t imply anything to the contrary.  It’s a small world – and a very big one, too.  You really may not see them again unless you go out of your way to do so.

Make a Point to Stay Connected

If you like the person, and want them to remain in your life, set an intention to do everything in your power to make that happen.

  • Set a specific date to meet for lunch 2 weeks from now – and keep it.

  • Add them to your twitter and IM accounts.  Make them one of the people that you contact regularly.

  • Invite them to dinner or for drinks sometime in the next month.

Transitioning relationships from work into other parts of our lives requires a little work – but can happen.  It won’t happen automatically though.

Goodbyes are sad and hard for most of us.

They remind us of our own vulnerability.

What do you do when it’s time to say goodbye?


1 LEE 2 October 2008 at 12:56 pm

When leaving an old job….Make those who have been left behind feel less guilty (and perhaps a little jealous) by showing up to say hello in shorts/t-shirt/flip-flops with a nice tan and a smile on your face. That’s what I did. Of course it helped that I was let go at the beginning of the summer.


2 Oktober Five 2 October 2008 at 3:59 pm

Honestly, I like to duck out unnoticed. And never see any of them again.

Ironic I read this now as I’m quitting my current job.


3 Cindy King 5 October 2008 at 10:58 am

Great post, I stumbled it an included it on my Sunday Blog Carnival. Saying goodbye can be hard, especially when the person is let go for cause, but not a cause the that other employees really notice. People have a hard time remaining loyal to the company and to the friends that are moving on.

4 Alec Satin 5 October 2008 at 2:49 pm

Twitter: alecsatin @Lee – It’s good that you were able to leave your last job on an up note. @Oktober 5 – You are not alone in wanting to leave a job quietly and without fuss. This happens very frequently. Thanks for adding your comment. @Cindy King – Nice to hear from you again. You raise an excellent point – often times other people on a team are not privy to the reasons why a person is let go. It takes no time at all for all manner of reasons and rumors. These rarely help morale. If only managers would learn that such decisions need to be executed quickly and communicated as transparently as possible.

May you have a good week. Alec

Alec Satin
Alec Satin

Your editor is a Bible-believing Christian with no illusions about our darkening age. Keep reading your KJV. If you don’t have one, get a printed copy with good type and read it every day. May God bless you, keep you, and protect you.